A good night’s sleep is an essential component for leading a healthy, balanced life. It is as vital as breathing, eating, and drinking. Sleeping allows your body to rejuvenate and repair for another day and it enables your brain to reorganize and consolidate your thought process and memories.
Americans are notorious for being sleep-deprived. They are not sleeping for the recommended number of hours, and the quality of sleep has decreased as well.
According to statistics, 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. have a sleeping disorder, with insomnia being the most common. Reportedly, approximately 30% of the adults have short-term insomnia while 10% have the chronic condition.
A fitful, poor slumber can have drastic effects on your mind and body, deteriorating your quality of life. It can compromise your immune system, induce weight gain, and increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes.
Moreover, loss of sleep is closely linked to various mental health problems including:
While the mind is distracted during the day with menial chores, it becomes overwhelmed with worrying thoughts at night, causing you to lose sleep. According to a Harvard study, 50% of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder suffer from sleep deprivation. When you are anxious, your mind is unable to “power-off,” hindering all efforts to go to sleep.
People diagnosed with clinical depression may have trouble falling or staying asleep. In fact, one of the most common indicators of depression is the inability to stay asleep or insomnia. While sleep disorders cannot lead to or cause depression, lack of sleep due to any reason can aggravate the symptoms of depression.
Memory and concentration
Sleep is imperative for the brain to perform adequately. Sleep deprivation affects the ability of the mind to concentrate, be productive and function well. It can also influence the memory to cause forgetfulness and disorientation.
Furthermore, lack of deep sleep can compromise your capabilities to stay alert, attentive, and solve problems. Consequently, it can be frustrating and agitating. You are also more susceptible to causing accidents on the road and at the job, putting yourself and others at risk.
According to a study, insufficient sleep can similarly affect the brain functioning as alcohol intoxication. Sleep-deprived subjects were found to have slower respond speeds and weaker performance, comparable to the intoxicated subjects.
A well-rested body produces less stress-inducing hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline. High volumes of cortisol can have a negative effect on the ability of the brain to function correctly. Chronic stress can kill brain cells and even shrink the size of the brain, thereby affecting the prefrontal cortex responsible for memory and learning.
Therefore, to reduce the levels of cortisol and to keep it within moderate limits, it is essential to sleep well at the end of the day.
Cognitive decline and dementia
With almost 47.5 million people living with dementia across the globe, more and more scientists and researchers are realizing the gravity of the situation. Subsequently, they are investing time and resources to unearth the causes and risk factors of dementia. Sleep deprivation is thought to be one of the risk factors for dementia.
According to a research, people who have trouble falling or staying asleep, have a poor sleep quality or get inadequate amounts of slumber at night are at a higher risk for cognitive decline and dementia.
However, due to the undesirable attitude of the society towards mental illnesses, many individuals fail to come forth and get a proper diagnosis. Therefore, a prominent organization, in collaboration with some of the leading Alzheimer’s researchers, has invented braintests where you can take dementia test online from the comfort of your homes.
Importance of sleep for mental well-being
For the sake of your cognitive wellness, you should prioritize sleep over daily chores, worrying thoughts, use of mobile phones and so on.
Sound sleep can help your brain rewind and rewire for another day of challenging tasks and get rid of the neural waste accumulated from the errands of the past day. Without adequate sleep, your brain cannot clean itself making you groggy, inattentive, and disoriented.
Moreover, trauma patients are recommended to go to sleep immediately after the incident as it reduces their likelihoods of developing a post-traumatic stress disorder. A deep slumber immediately after the traumatic event can function as a preventive measure against developing PTSD. Otherwise, people who experience trauma may begin suffering from the symptoms of PTSD such as heightened vigilance, anxiety, and recurring flashbacks.
Conclusively, a consistent sleeping pattern abetted by simple mindfulness exercises ensures that your mind is calm and peaceful before you fall asleep. You are also more likely to enjoy a better quality of sleep, which is deep and uninterrupted. This kind of slumber is most suitable to clear up your mind.
Regular sleep cycle also helps your body and mind in a shutdown state every day at a fixed time. You are able to sleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed, focused and energized.
Various factors affect the mental health of an individual. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining your cognitive wellbeing. It can help to reduce stress, enhance the memory and concentration, diminish the chances of the onset of PTSD symptoms, and decrease the risk of dementia amongst numerous other things.
Therefore, strive to go to bed as early as possible, clear your mind, and sleep for a recommended seven to nine hours every day.